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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

El mendigo guiri

Have you guys seen him? Wandering the streets of Barcelona with his Peruvian/Manu Chao style hat, yelling at random passers-by? Fully dressed, sometimes in layers, even though it’s pleno verano?

I’ve seen him three or four times, wandering the Raval, Via Laietana, and Barceloneta. The last time I was walking by him he stopped and yelled at a family of tourists:

“You are the decadence of society!”

He’s not English or American; but he’s definitely guiri. My guess is Dutch or German. And he’s not the first raving mad guiri I’ve seen. In fact, all over Barcelona there has been a sudden proliferation of homeless people. It looks like a reverse take on the Bennetton ads. Just check out the mendigos, or beggars, out in force in Plaça Catalunya; sleeping on benches on calle Comtal.

I wonder, could this be part of the dreaded New York-ification of Barcelona? I say dreaded because the bad things are the most salient - like the Starbucks on every other corner, the over-priced drinks, the superficial veneer this city is engendering. I won't say it's wrong, because I don't believe in moralizing.

But I feel it in my bones. Something ain't right.

I'm not one for fire-bombing – I definitely am not one of those anti-globalization people – but man, this city is not the same as it was six years ago. You could say it’s losing its unique charm. I’m a little worried, and bummed out.


Come to think of it, this crazy guiri looks an awful lot like this guy I used to see staggering around the center a few years ago. He’d approach every other tourist with a slightly varying tale of woe, in semi-decent English. He’d beg for change to call/get to the airport/get a cheap hotel because someone had stolen his bags …

So, the guiri mendigo continues to wander and spew his bile on the uninitiated neophytes and tourists.

Are they the decadence of society? Or is he?